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Apra-IL Blog


You Should Write a Blog About That!

As part of our goal to share industry and career-related information to colleagues in the fundraising development field, we encourage you to contact us if you would like to contribute to our blog. 

We also enjoy reading other blogs and may contact you to share a guest post. 


Current Apra-IL Blog Series

Dear Analyst

Motivations of Leaders

New! True Life: A Day in Prospect Development

Completed in 2018 - 50 Shades of Prospect Development


  • Fri, April 20, 2018 7:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What makes prospect development a great career?

    Apra-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in prospect development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and prospect development forward. 

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, Apra-IL member and volunteer, interviews Mallory Lass, Assistant Director, Prospect Research at the University of California Berkeley. 


    Mallory Lass is Assistant Director, Prospect Management at UC Berkeley, where she also supports regional fundraising efforts in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and the Vice Chancellor for Research Office.  Mallory works with her fundraising clients to provide comprehensive prospect management, prospect research, and data analytics services. Mallory started in prospect research as a student worker at UC Santa Barbara and was able to embark on a career in the industry after graduation. She returned to Prospect Development after she took a career detour as an estate planning attorney, where she was also involved on many community boards. Mallory joined the board of CARA (California Advancement Research Association) in 2014 as the Northern California Regional Chair. She is the immediate past President and current Communications Chair.

    To stay in touch with Mallory, follow her on Twitter @datalover916

    Apra-IL: Two-part question: Why Prospect Development? And what has kept you motivated?

    Lass: I actually got involved in fundraising as a student. I attended UCSB and was looking for a student job and saw a posting that basically said computer proficient, so I applied.  It ended up being in Prospect Development, and it opened up my world a lot.  I took a detour to law school and practiced Estate Planning for a few years; in part because of the inspiration I had from fundraising and advancement to help people realize their goals. Ultimately, I was called back to the world of Prospect Development and have always been in Higher Ed because public education is my passion. Literacy and access to education are really important to me, so the students keep me going. The seemingly never-ending slew of world problems we have yet to solve are also a source of motivation. I know I am doing work that has wide-reaching effects, which will ultimately touch thousands of people. I don’t think everyone gets to say that about their job. It really is mission driven work for me. I find it intellectually stimulating even though it can also can be quite theoretical.

    Apra-IL: What role has Apra/Cara played in your professional journey?

    Lass: I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the Apra/CARA community. I remember, even back when I was a student worker, the woman who ran our prospect management program at the time attended Apra and came back full of new ideas. It sounded exciting, and I remember how nice she said everyone was, and that has always been my experience with the community; so willing to help and share information. As a life-long learner, professional development is something I am really passionate about. More than that, I think these organizations create a space to build community. Even though it seems like it sometimes, we don’t operate in a vacuum. We have peer institutions, parallel and intersecting missions, etc. and there is something really comforting in that. As our community grows and becomes more vibrant, there is no better place to be than in the mix at Apra PD or a CARA conference and seeing everyone so engaged and genuinely happy.

    Apra-IL: Could you tell us one perception people have about professionals in Prospect Development? What's the truth?

    Lass: I know there are stories about encounters with people in the outside world who have some perception of Prospect Development, but I would say for the most part, people have no idea that this is even a profession, nor what the day-to-day work is like.  From early on, when I first got into this industry as a student, I created a little elevator pitch about what I did. The elevator pitch of my youth was certainly full of more snark and even some cringe-worthy language. But I have spent a lot of time now educating the general public/friends/family about philanthropy, even if it is with more professional language and the short pitch works. I can always go into more detail if people are interested. I continue to discuss the importance of private support for public education, the importance of supporting organizations and causes whose mission aligns with your own values, etc. 

    I think from within other areas of advancement, people are not always sure what we do over in prospect development. So, it is a little bit about demystifying our processes. Doing proactive education is a big help. There is no magic box, we work really hard to gather and analyze data and provide key insights into our strategies and prospects.

    Apra-IL: Fill in the blank with a piece of advice you wish you had received in your first Prospect Development role: When in doubt, ___________.

    Lass: When in doubt eat ice cream.

    Everything we do (okay, mostly everything we do) is important, or can be traced to an important outcome. That said, sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously. When I get stuck on a problem, a prospect research request, a data project, have a challenging meeting, etc. the best thing for me to do is take a break and stop thinking so hard about it. Most of the time, the problem will still be there when you get back. For me, my happy place is eating ice cream, so I either grab some co-workers to join me, or just go it alone. I have been known to “schedule” ice cream related meetings into my calendar when I know I have a ton of non-ice cream related meetings, or a big deadline. The real advice here is give yourself and the people around you a break. Our work is important, but nothing is worth an ulcer. Okay, the real, real advice is to eat more ice cream!

  • Thu, March 29, 2018 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What makes prospect development a great career?

    Apra-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in prospect development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and prospect development forward. 

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, Apra-IL member and volunteer, interviews Kevin MacDonell, Acting Executive Director, Advancement Operations for the Advancement Department of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

    Kevin MacDonell is Acting Executive Director, Advancement Operations for the Advancement Department of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Formerly a journalist and editor, he entered higher education advancement in 2003 as a communications writer and later moved on to prospect research, annual giving (phonathon), and business intelligence. Along the way, he pursued an interest in data analysis, data mining and predictive modeling and applies these techniques to support all areas of university advancement. He launched the CoolData blog (cooldata.org) in 2009, focused on promoting the learning of predictive modeling techniques for professionals working in advancement and other nonprofit organizations. He has given many conference presentations on these topics, and in 2014 he was co-author (with consultant Peter Wylie) of a book published by CASE called “Score!: Data-Driven Success for Your Advancement Team.” Most recently, he published a how-to guide for predictive modelling as a free download from CoolData.org.

    Apra-IL: Describe your motivations to build your career in Prospect Development, and what keeps you engaged?

    MacDonell: My career has not been focused solely on Prospect Development, but it is fair to say that it has always revolved around it. I was a prospect researcher for seven years with responsibility for what, at the time, I didn’t know to call prospect management. Later, I worked in Annual Fund, data analysis, and managing teams in Operations (a.k.a. Advancement Services). None of those roles was really separate from Prospect Development, in the big picture: Annual Fund is part of a process that should identify key donors early and engage them appropriately; my data analysis work was in support of the same process, and Advancement Services professionals should be focused on supporting the smooth working of the “pipeline,” in its broadest sense.

    My path through Advancement hasn’t been an outcome of a career built according to plan. I have moved from opportunity to opportunity. But the common thread is the satisfaction I receive from mobilizing data and information to enable leadership and frontline staff make decisions and support strategy. I’ve enjoyed learning new things, working on interesting problems with other people, and being useful in general. That has spilled over into my blog, the book I co-wrote with Peter Wylie, and the new (free) book I’ve just self-published.

    Of course, those traits are true of anyone who enjoys coming to work each day, but the best people have those in spades. They are all intrinsic rewards of work. Nowadays, part of my role is to hire for that orientation toward intrinsic rewards, among other traits (including being smarter than I am).

    Apra-IL: In your career, what has been your biggest challenge or lesson?

    MacDonell: My biggest challenge was negotiating the transition to managing a team when all my previous experience related to hands-on work. This is a common problem - I’ve seen other new managers struggle with it - and I think it’s especially true for knowledge workers who may be managing a team but still have all the tools of the trade right there on their desktop. It took a while to feel right about letting go of things I once enjoyed, such as doing data analysis. It is possible to retain some elements of hands-on work, but I found that I couldn’t work on a priority project without becoming a bottleneck to progress. In roles I’ve had in recent years, holding on to any of that would drain energy from where it’s really needed: ensuring I understand where the frontline part of the organization is going, and being out ahead of it to support it, and proactively plan.

    Apra-IL: In three words, describe the role of a Prospect Development Professional.

    MacDonell: Collaborative. Empowered. Engaged.

    Apra-IL: Please share a piece of advice with our readers you gained through a professional development opportunity.

    MacDonell: I’ve attended many Apra conferences and sessions as an attendee and speaker, so professional development from Apra has shaped my view of Advancement in important ways. However, having seen prospect development from various angles, my advice to experienced people in the field is not to limit your view to what’s going on in Prospect Development to the exclusion of awareness of the strategic direction your department or organization is taking. I think of Apra as being forward-facing and in the vanguard of developments in the field, but we have to acknowledge that as much as we crave appreciation and respect from Advancement leaders, Prospect Development professionals are in service to their organization’s strategy. We may have had a hand in developing that strategy, but ultimately, strategy is developed by the organization’s leadership.

    It’s analogous to something I like to say about an area I feel affinity with: data analysis and business intelligence. I have stopped using the term “data-driven decision making” in favour of “data-informed” or “evidence-based” decision making. Data doesn’t “drive” decisions, it “informs” them. Advancement leaders need to, well, lead – that is, chart a course. Analysts supply some of the tools, information, and advice to keep the ship on course. So it is with Prospect Development. A high profile for the people doing the work is important, but it is equally important for those folks to understand and support the strategy, and plug into it in proactive, effective ways – rather than seek to bend the organization to their concept of best practice. Prospect Development can show leadership where strategy is lacking, but otherwise it’s best to be in tune with the overall plan.

  • Mon, March 26, 2018 7:23 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Created by: Joan Ogwumike, Principle Gifts, Prospect Research Analyst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Principal, Jstrategies

    Apra-IL presents 50 Shades of Prospect Development; a series of illustrations that seek to provide a visual depiction of the complexities in all aspects of the Prospect Development field. Each colorful image will represent the emotional ups and downs, moments of pride, successful projects and relationships, conflicts with our co-workers/technology/work-life balance, and/or opportunities for growth we find in our careers.



    There are issues with communication in every field. Understandably, Prospect Development has an issue with overcoming these one-way communication hurdles. We face obstacles when advocating for professional development, balancing our work and life, and a lack of respect for our work and voice. These burdens can begin to feel too heavy when carried alone. Apra-IL is here for you! We serve as a community of like-minded professionals always willing to meet up, reach out, and assist when asked. 

    Have you faced any of the above scenarios? How did you overcome? How can Apra-IL help? Let us know in the comments below. 

  • Mon, February 26, 2018 8:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Created by: Joan Ogwumike, Principle Gifts, Prospect Research Analyst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Principal, Jstrategies

    Apra-IL presents 50 Shades of Prospect Development; a series of illustrations that seek to provide a visual depiction of the complexities in all aspects of the Prospect Development field. Each colorful image will represent the emotional ups and downs, moments of pride, successful projects and relationships, conflicts with our co-workers/technology/work-life balance, and/or opportunities for growth we find in our careers.

     

    As professionals in Prospect Development, we have opportunities to learn continuously through webinars, conversations with colleagues, and conferences. Through those resources, we are able to celebrate the creation and discovery of new resources, wrestle with changes in tax law, and analyse wealth/capacity calculation advancements. The above illustration shows how far we've come as a field. Throughout the history of the field, we've utilized new tech to store our records more efficiently, found new ways to work with our colleagues in libraries, and collaborated with vendors to build systems that (while often full of quirks and frustrations) surpass the wildest dreams we would've had 10, 20, or 30 years ago. 

    Take some time today to celebrate the advances we've made and the ways these technologies have changed the way in which we do our good work. Celebrate, also, the potential in our field. Can you see ways in which you and your colleagues are working to alter the path of Prospect Development? Share them with us!

    What do you think the future of Prospect Development looks like? In what areas have you seen growth that you never could've dreamed of only years earlier? Do you think AI and robotics will someday take over our roles as researchers and strategists? 

    Let us know your thoughts below!

  • Mon, February 12, 2018 8:44 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What makes prospect development a great career?

    Apra-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in prospect development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and prospect development forward. 

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, Apra-IL member and volunteer, interviews Jami Hougen Johnson, Director of Prospect Management at the University of Chicago.


    Jami is the Director of Prospect Management at the University of Chicago. Previously, she was the program director of a workplace giving coalition that supported social change, environmental, and cultural causes in Iowa. At the University of Chicago, she leads a team of analysts that work with colleagues across Alumni Relations and Development (ARD) to develop prospect pools, improve portfolio management, build pipeline strength, analyze gift officer productivity, create prospect management policy, and implement fundraising strategies. The prospect management team is part of a larger decision support team that includes financial analysis and forecasting, and information engagement and education specialists.

    She has presented at APRA International and APRA Illinois, and is hoping to present in the future on building out strong prospect lifecycle programs in higher education organizations. She received her BS in neuropsychology and certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Iowa and received a certificate in project management and is in the process of getting a MLA from the University of Chicago Graham School.

    If hearing about any of the work at UChicago is interesting to you, contact Jami (jhougen@uchicago.edu) to learn more! The Prospect Management team is hiring and will be posting an analyst position in the next few weeks.

    Apra-IL: Can you tell us what motivates you in your current field? Have your motivations have ever changed?

    Hougen Johnson: I wanted to make a positive impact in the world through my career and nonprofits are like world-improving powerhouses. The people in these organizations are so dedicated to the cause, and in turn they help donors and prospective donors make an impact through their time and giving.

    Higher education is something that is important to me, so my motivation there has never really changed – although I loved working with smaller social change organizations years ago. I’d say my motivations have changed when it comes to the different areas within a nonprofit. I’ve done frontline fundraising, database administration, some program development, and now prospect development. Challenge itself is motivating, so when I see a big gap in my knowledge I’m interested to move more in that direction.  

    Apra-IL: Describe your journey into your current position.

    Hougen Johnson: I’ve heard people talk about how they “fell” into prospect development (and what a great career to fall into), but my journey was a little more direct. When I was an undergraduate, I wanted to work in the medical field and worked as part of a cancer research team and then in the heart transplant department. Both of these departments had wonderful nonprofits they worked closely with, and I got more involved. I was able to bring more analysis and data to these fundraising programs and was surprised at how much this insight impacted dollars raised.  I focused on for-profit strategy for some time, but ultimately came back to nonprofits.

    My first full-time nonprofit job was one of those where you get to where all the hats, and I mean all the hats.  I learned a lot, but wanted an opportunity to become more specialized in my work. To get more specialization it helps to work in a larger nonprofit, so I saved up and moved to Chicago. When my friends asked what I wanted to do, I’d tell them I wanted to work on Michigan Avenue (it was the most opposite location from where I worked previously that I could think of) and have a chance to study what made people give some of the biggest gifts charity receive (again, opposite of the mostly annual fund program I ran previously). Believe it or not, I ended up working on Michigan Avenue working as a prospect management analyst focused on principal gifts.

    Apra-IL: What advice would you give a new professional in the field of Prospect Development?

    Hougen Johnson: Great question. I’ve been lucky to work with amazing people, and have gotten some excellent advice over the years.   

    1. Ask big picture questions. 

    Don’t limit your knowledge to just your role – even when you’re first starting out. What are the biggest challenges your organization faces? What is your organization trying to accomplish in the next 5, 10 years? How will fundraising impact the ability to achieve these goals? What are your organization’s key metrics? How does your work fit into these metrics? What are the biggest pain points your gift officers experience in their work? Tie what you learn about the greater organizational needs to your own work.

    It can be easy to be a silo when working in prospect development. Understanding the big picture (and not just thinking short-term) will help you ask good questions and make your work more effective. Getting involved in professional organizations (like APRA IL!) is also a great way to understand the bigger picture, and learn about what other organizations are doing.

    2. Study your impact.

    UChicago’s prospect research, analytics, and prospect management teams recently did some cross-team interviews to better understand pain points and opportunities in our prospect development work. One common trend throughout these conversations was the desire to have a better understanding of prospect development’s impact on the organization.  This wasn’t a surprising finding necessarily, but it did underscore the importance of taking the time to study your own work.

    You can get feedback and reports from other people (and this should be part of reflecting on your work), but it is also important to track and understand your work yourself.  Where are you adding value? One place to start is understanding how you might help increase funds and reduce cost. You might reduce costs by helping staff prioritize large groups of donors and prospective donors.

    If you have some ideas for how you’re adding value, what actually is happening with your work? Keep a spreadsheet of prospects that scored highly on a model, you’ve identified, or you’ve assigned. Put it on your calendar to run a report on these names. Which prospects are giving? Which are being engaged? If nothing seems to be happening with some of these people, look at the data and think about what this is, and then reach out to your colleagues for feedback.  Understanding your impact is an important motivator for work in general, but studying your work will also help you regularly improve.

    3. Focus on your strengths.

    Think back to mentors or people that you thought were excellent at what they did. They were probably good generally, but there was likely a handful of things they were particularly great at, right? When you’re first starting out you want to make sure you’re checking all the boxes, but pay attention to the work that draws you in. Take note and focus on that work whenever you can. Of course, you don’t want to ignore your weaknesses, but you can be “good enough” in some areas of your work, and then be great at a few.

    I’m particularly fond of radar or spider charts for this (ask UChicago’s PM team, they are probably sick of these). Talk to your manager and colleagues about the skills that are most important to your job. Work with your manager to rate yourself on these skills so you can see any major areas to improve, and then work on the areas you want to get “pointy”. I’m not a fan of personality tests because I think they often put people in a box… but Strengthsfinders is a good tool if you’re looking for a place to start.

    Apra-IL: #researchpride is a fun and meaningful hashtag that allows professionals in Prospect Development to reflect and share why they feel proud to be in the field. Can you share a moment in which you have felt proud to be in Prospect Development? 

    Hougen Johnson: First, can we get a #pmpride hashtag going too? Really though, I work with a brilliant team. They ask beautiful questions and are dedicated to finding answers. I’m regularly impressed, excited, and proud of the impact their questions (and answers!) have on our fundraising program. And when I think we’ve looked at all the data and there isn’t much more to review, we meet with gift officers and other teams and they ask questions that never crossed our minds. There is certainly an art to fundraising, but there is also a science and as a field we’ve seen a lot of changes to the different voices that are heard in organizational strategy conversations.

    These conversations help us all think outside of the box about prospect development processes, portfolio management, how we engage donors and prospective donors … these improvements increase UChicago’s impact on people, our community, and the world. How can you not be proud of that?


  • Mon, January 29, 2018 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Created by: Joan Ogwumike, Principle Gifts, Prospect Research Analyst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Founding Principal, Jstrategies

    Apra-IL presents 50 Shades of Prospect Development; a series of illustrations that seek provide a visual depiction of the complexities in all aspects of the Prospect Development field. Each colorful image will represent the emotional ups and downs, moments of pride, successful projects and relationships, conflicts with our co-workers/technology/work-life balance, and/or opportunities for growth we find in our careers.

     

    For our first entry, I’ve created the big picture of Prospect Development shown broken into its composite pieces. Each vibrant puzzle piece represents an aspect of the field and how each area of PD needs one another. Together, they create a larger picture. I hope that you can identify your role(s) in the puzzle. Which piece stands out to you as a primary function of your role? Which piece is your organization lacking? Can Apra-IL help you grow in that area? Let us know by posting below!


  • Mon, January 08, 2018 10:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    It’s a new year and we've got new offerings for our members. Our organization has accomplished a great deal in 2017, but we look to 2018 to reach new heights and maintain this exemplary prospect development chapter for professionals in Illinois and the surrounding region.

    As I begin my last year as your chapter President, I want to reaffirm the mission that I set out to create three years ago: to build a chapter that is self-sustaining, a source of expertise, and a place full of collaboration and camaraderie. Throughout my term, we have made great strides in these goals, but we still have work to do!

    A consistent struggle for our chapter has been getting and retaining board volunteers. Just recently, we added three new board members (hurray!). Megan Humphrey has taken on the role of President-Elect and will be shadowing me throughout the year. Peter Kotowski will be taking over for Jessica Szadziewicz as Vice President and Keli Jonas has agreed to become our new Programming Chair. Special thanks to Jessica for all of her work throughout her tenure with Apra-IL. We look forward to having you as a board advisor and active member. Thank you all for your participation in voting in our new board members! See below for more details about our new teammates. 

    As President, I am very proud of the work done by our chapter and its members and I hope to have the chance to meet you all this year at our events. The calendar for 2018 is always available on our website, so take this opportunity to browse and plan what you’d like to attend. The first event of the year will be in February for APRA International’s Share the Knowledge Week. Apra-IL will be hosting a webinar during this time frame along with our webinar partners Apra-MN, Apra-MidSouth, and Apra-Great Plains. More information will be available on the event’s page in January. I am looking forward to the coming year with Apra-IL and I hope you are, too!

    Best Wishes and a Happy New Year,

    Katie Ingrao, Apra-IL President



  • Mon, December 25, 2017 8:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2017 has been quite a year! We accomplished a lot as a chapter and it’s important to take a moment to note the hard work of our volunteers. I want to thank our chapter members who volunteered their time and talent this year, especially those members who served as speakers at our Spring Symposium in May and for our quarterly webinars. In addition to the formal educational programming that we provided, we were able to have a lot of fun! We hope you were able to join us at our SPiN ping pong night, attended the field trip to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, or lingered at one of our numerous happy hours/salons, and gathered in Anaheim, CA during the annual Prospect Development Conference for breakfast.

    We look forward to continuing to provide our members with great events and opportunities in 2018! 

    In an effort to be more collaborative and diverse in our programming, we have continued to expand our webinar offerings.Currently, we are partnered with Apra-MN and Apra-MidSouth in a license to use GoToWebinar to provide webinars to all of our members free or at member pricing. Last month we extended an offer to Apra-Great Plains to join our license to provide another source of expertise and content. As a part of our agreement, each chapter will be responsible for hosting one webinar a quarter, thus reducing the strain of programming on each of our respective chapters. This is a great opportunity for us and I am very excited to be broadening our educational reach through webinars.

    We also plan to expand our reach downstate. The board is currently exploring ways to live stream our educational programming and provide satellite locations to make attendance and participation easier for those who can’t make it to the physical event. More details to come on this via our monthly e-mail. Stay tuned!

    I want to thank you again for supporting your local Apra chapter through attending an event, volunteering to speak, and/or responding to our requests for ideas. We appreciate you and hope to continue to provide excellent professional development through 2018.

    Warmly, 

    Katie Ingrao, Apra-IL President

  • Tue, December 05, 2017 10:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Elisa Shoenberger, Benchmarking Analyst, Grenzebach Glier and Associates

    Dear Analyst,

    We have to review the obituaries every work day to check for alumni and donors. Mondays are the worst because I have three days of newspapers to review! Obituary review can take most of the day and it’s really monotonous looking up names. I’m not exactly sure why I do this and what benefit it presents to my organization. Is there another way to make this task less odious or tedious?

    Thanks,

    Overwhelmed by Obituaries


    Dear Overwhelmed,

    Reviewing obituaries isn’t an easy task! It takes time to review an obituary, check the names against your database, and then updating the record or create an email. Plus it’s not the most pleasant of topics either. However, it’s an important activity because it’s part of caring for our donors and alumni. Fundraising is about relationships, including the end of life. We should stay abreast of all the people (and their loved ones) who have passed away is to make sure we approach donors and alumni appropriately in their time of grief. We don’t want to keep mailing to someone who has passed; that’s a bit like putting salt in the wound (and not to mention a waste of resources). If we are cultivating a major gift donor, it would be a bit awkward to ask them for a major gift if they’ve had an unfortunate event. More importantly, we may even be able to provide some relief; depending on the organization, an institution may be able to provide pastoral care and/or even hold services for the beloved one.

    Finally, there’s also the planned giving aspect of fundraising. It’s important to keep track of donors who have pledged to give part of their estates to your organization. Some planned giving departments will reach out to the estates to reconcile the donor’s pledge.

    However, that doesn’t change the fact that obituary review can be extremely time consuming. There are several things that may help to alleviate the practice. First, you should consider reviewing the obituary procedure at your organization. How much time is it taking compared to the rest of prospect research activities? You could even calculate the yearly cost of obituaries by noting how many hours it takes a week. In one situation, a research department realized it was costing over $15K a year to do obituaries so the process needed to be reviewed. In that situation, the researchers reduced the depth of daily review; instead of reviewing every name in an obituary, it was limited to the deceased and their spouse or child and their parents. That reduced the time incredible.

    Alerts are also a useful tool as well. You may want to consider setting up alerts for your top prospects and planned giving donors. You may want to do this anyway for any other newsworthy events for your organization. That way, you can get quicker notification of a death in the life of a major donor. But it has to be reviewed fairly regularly, possibly on a weekly or even daily basis.

    Finally, it may be a great task for new researchers, interns and student workers.  Reviewing obituaries and cross checking them with the database is a great way to train new hires. It requires attention to detail, follow through and more. Sometimes you have to spend time digging to ensure that the deceased person is the same as the person in your database. Student workers and interns can also be taught to assist with this task. Of course, you’ll need to make sure someone checks their work before anything is finalized in the database.

    These are just a few strategies to help with obituary review. How does your organization handle obituary processes?


  • Tue, November 28, 2017 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What makes Prospect Development a great career?

    APRA-IL is asking local and national industry leaders what the field means to them and why and how they have pursued success in Prospect Development. Through this blog series, we will explore what drives industry leaders to propel their careers and Prospect Development forward.

    For this month's piece, Joan Ogwumike, APRA-IL member and volunteer, interviews Tracey Church, Past President of Apra-Canada and Principal Researcher and Consultant with her company, Tracey Church & Associates, Research + Consulting Services.

    Tracey has been a professional researcher for over 20 years and is the Past President of the Association of Professional Researchers in Advancement Canada (Apra-Canada). She is the Principal Researcher and Consultant with her own company, Tracey Church & Associates, Research + Consulting Services (www.traceychurchresearch.com). Tracey is proud to be the Co-Editor and Co-Author of Apra-Canada’s first book “Prospect Research in Canada: An Essential Guide for Researchers and Fundraisers” (Civil Sector Press, 2016). Tracey is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Research Council and is a Director for Apra International and AFP Golden Horseshoe.

    Tracey has worked with over 300 organizations in the fields of health care, education, social services, the arts, and the environment. Her work includes customized one-on-one or group training, custom research profiles, prospect identification, database screening, pipeline management, strategic planning, time and database management, surveys and interviews, and specialized research projects.

    Tracey is a part-time faculty member at Western University (London, Ontario) teaching the Prospect Research in Fundraising course in the Master of Library and Information Sciences program (MLIS). She has an MLIS and Professional Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from Western University. She is a regular and requested presenter for Apra, AFP, AHP, OLA and other conferences and loves to see her students and trainees succeed in the exciting field of prospect research.

    Apra – IL: How did you end up owning and running your own prospect research consulting company? Help us understand your journey.

    Church: I have been working in the prospect research and development sector for ~15 years in gradual progressive positions. In that time, through my involvement with Apra International, Apra Canada, AFP, AHP and regional fundraising associations, I had built up quite a healthy network of contacts and relationships. So when I set up my research and consulting business a few years ago, I knew a great many people in the small to medium charitable sector who could benefit from affordable research and consulting.

    Let me go back a bit. I've always been a researcher. When I first graduated from my MLIS program many years ago, I actually accepted a position as a Research Assistant for Clinical Trials at London Health Science Centre. So to me, research is research. You collect and measure relevant information to a question you are trying to answer and through quantifiable and qualification research you report on the outcomes, best practices, and recommendations moving forward. So not a big leap in the process from clinical trial research to prospect development research! From there, I worked at Western University in the Research Office and Institutional Planning and Budgeting Office. At that time, I was a member of AIR (Association of Institutional Research) which again used measurable results for strategic planning for higher education. We had massive budgetary lay-offs in the late 90s at Western, and I was one of them. I set up my own Research & Writing business which was international in scale but largely focused on academic and Canadian research. It was really interesting work, and really diverse, but my children were young and I found I was pretty well working 24-7 which doesn't work well for a young family. I spent a lot of time saying "please close the office door, Mom is working"! That's when I saw the "Prospect Researcher" position at London Health Sciences Foundation, and the rest, they say, is history.

    After five years at LHSF, I became the National Director of Research for CNIB which broadened my scope from regional higher education and healthcare to a national human services agency. It was great for learning the challenge of fundraising for human services, the hardest by far, and for learning the regional differences across Canada. After four years at CNIB, I was recruited to KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.) from CNIB and broadened my scope even further in regards to the types of research that can be done in fundraising. When I set up my own shop (again) in the summer of 2015, I had learned a great deal about the consulting industry in fundraising in Canada but could, once again, concentrate on the research and prospect development of it. Now of course, my children are older and out of the house, so I am at liberty to make my own schedule without having to worry about soccer or karate practice! I LOVE my work and my clients are very inspirational.

    Apra – IL: Describe your motivations to continue in prospect development and what keeps you engaged.

    Church: It sounds corny, but the people in the charitable sector and my clients are what keep me motivated. I love helping clients whether it's research, training or consulting. It's great when they get in gifts resulting from the research and I like to think my direction helped them along the way. Also, the teaching and presenting are exciting. I have taught the Prospect Research in Fundraising course in the MLIS program at Western University for eight years now, and it's great teaching students who think they are destined to work in libraries that there is a whole great world of the charitable sector out there that could seriously use their data and research skills. I now see some of my past students at Apra conferences and I get a real kick out of how they have chosen this profession after completing my class. Very rewarding! I also keep very involved in Apra International, Apra Canada, AFP and AHP. I can't help it! They are wonderfully helpful organizations for the fundraising sector and since I present a lot and continue to learn a lot from the conferences and webinars, I feel I need to contribute, too. I've made so many great friends through my board and volunteer involvement.

    Apra – IL: What has been the biggest challenge or lesson in your career?

    Church: Oh, for sure you have to be resilient and flexible! Life throws you curve balls (like getting laid off) and you have to step back, reassess, and take bold steps in a new direction. I remember my daughter's guidance counselor told their high school class "on average, you will have seven jobs/careers in your lifetime." So the younger generation is prepared for that, whereas our generation thought that some jobs were for life. Not necessarily so! So, for sure you have to keep up-to-date on technology, keep involved, keep taking courses and learning and you will eventually direct yourself into something new, challenging and rewarding when the time comes along, either by your own doing, or if something throws you off course. I can tell you that each new direction I’ve taken has been considerably more exciting than any previous course.

    Apra – IL: What is one misconception people have about prospect development? What's the truth? 

    Church: Well, there are still some older fundraisers, and yes, some senior executives out there that think prospect research and development is a "nice to have" instead of a "need to have." Because we aren't front line fundraisers, we are often overlooked and shuffled to the bottom when in reality, the most successful fundraisers I know are self-confessed totally-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-research groupies! I always tell my trainees or clients that charitable organizations have to be responsible with donors' money, so soliciting without direction is plain old wasting money. Researchers can direct fundraisers away from prospects that have neither the capacity nor the affinity to give to their organization and we can do it in a much more objective way. We don't want fundraisers wasting time (i.e., money), so targeting and strategic consultation regarding the most viable prospects is absolutely necessary to meet their crazy major giving goals. We have to hold our ground in regards to this and need to be at the table at every strategic meeting and step along the way.

    Where's my soapbox?! I could go on all day!


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